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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Inspired by . . . Seeking the Light: An Advent Journey

"Let there be light," is the first utterance we ever hear from God. Of all the things God has made, Light was the first.

'ôr (ore) meaning illumination

Webster lists more than 26 definitions of Light as it is used in the Bible. Far beyond simply an ethereal matter, which God speaks into existence in the first verses of Genesis, we learn that Light is also understanding and knowledge. It is wisdom and joy. Comfort and deliverance. Light is life and Light is the Gospel.

Most importantly, we learn:

Jesus Christ is the Light of the world!

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)
Jesus Christ the center and beginning of all things; the great Illuminator has come, and IS coming soon.

Thus, Advent is a time to celebrate the first coming of Christ: His birth. Yet it is also a time to rekindle the excitement and expectation we should always feel in our spirit, a time to reignite our anticipation of His return!

Over the next three weeks we are going to seek the Light in three profound ways:

  • Jesus Christ the Light of the World: the wait is over, salvation has come!
  • Jesus Christ a Light to the Gentiles: living as children of the Light
  • Jesus Christ the Light of Hope: rekindling the flame, the hope of His return

This is a journey we take together and I would love to hear your insights as we begin Seeking the Light.

Blessings on your Advent,

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Inspired by . . . the hand of a woman

"And she said, "I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the LORD will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." Then Deborah arose and went with Barak to Kedesh." (Jdg 4:9)

In case you're not familiar with the actors in this inspiring part of HIStory, Deborah was a prophetess in Israel during the time of the Judges. Barak was the commander of Israel's army and Sisera was the commander of the Canaanite army. The Israelites were being oppressed by the Canaanites during this time and the Lord was about to deliver them in a mighty way.

Now before you scroll on or click off thinking this is just another sin-repentance-redemption story of Israel, this one has a twist that is worthy of notice.

"the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman." The Lord revealed this to Deborah along with the battle plan she was to give to Balak. In turn, Barak wanted Deborah to accompany him into battle but Deborah warned him that he would not receive the glory for the win. That would fall to a woman.

I wonder what was in Deborah's mind as she sat under the Palm Tree in the hill country of Ephraim. Was she thinking that the Israelites would praise her for the victory if she went with Barak into battle? She was, after all, the prophetess. Or had God revealed to her that He planned to honor another with the victory?

The Lord Himself routed the Canaanite army (Judges 4:14) but it was Jael, the wife of Heber, who was given the honor of killing Sisera. Her story is worth reading as she acted wisely and courageously.

We don't know if Deborah expected this turn of events but we do know she was quick to sing the praises of Jael. The song of Deborah and Barak in Judges 5 reads in part:

""Most blessed of women be Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, of tent-dwelling women most blessed." (Jdg 5:24)

For me, the encouragement here is two-fold. I believe that God honored Deborah and Jael because of their faith. Deborah's faith is easily deduced. The Canaanites had an impressive army. Nine hundred chariots strong. They had oppressed Israel for twenty years. Yet Deborah didn't hesitate when Barak asked her to go with him into battle. She took God at His word that He would deliver them. That is faith.

We don't know much about Jael's motivations. But we do know that her husband was a descendant of Moses' brother-in-law. (Judges 4:11) It may be a thin line but it leads straight back to the God of Israel. In my opinion, what Jael accomplished in that tent required divine intervention and faith.

I'm also encouraged by this example of women celebrating women. Thankfully, I see a fair amount of this in my social circles and it always inspires and encourages me on a personal level. 

The Bible doesn't sugarcoat things. Just because someone is a man or woman of God doesn't mean they are perfect. Remember Jonah who refused to bring God's message to Nineveh because he knew they would repent and God would forgive them? Geesh!

My point is, if Deborah was jealous of Jael, we would have known about it! These two women couldn't have been more different, yet when God chose to use Jael as an instrument in His victory over the Canaanites, Deborah didn't hesitate. Her praise of Jael is genuine.

The ability to genuinely celebrate someone else, especially if you're in a waiting pattern or have experienced a recent failure, is a sign of true faith. 

Faith in God, Whose timing is perfect, even when we don't understand or we're ready to go now! Faith in God, Who picks up the pieces of our failures and remakes them into something wonderful beyond what we could ever have imagined for ourselves.

When was the last time we celebrated someone else's success?

Are we trusting in God and His timing for our own dreams and successes?

May the story of Deborah and Jael remind us to do both.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Inspired by . . . a blessing and a warning

Do God's blessings have strings attached? No. He gives to us freely, with grace, love, and often in my case, with abundant mercy.

But there is nothing singular or finite about our relationship with the God of the universe and His actions toward us are always part of something bigger. His blessings to us have a purpose.

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. (Eph 2:10)

At the end of the first chapter in the gospel of Mark, we are told about a leper who begged Jesus to heal him. Moved with compassion, Jesus does heal him. He also gives the man a stern warning, He commands him to tell no one and to show himself to the priest and make an offering for his cleansing. The man immediately goes away and does just the opposite.

We are all well enough aware of what leprosy is to understand the magnitude of how this blessing from Jesus would have changed this man's life. Yet, although this man had just moments before knelt at Jesus' feet in apparent worship and humility, he quickly shows by his actions that he cares nothing about Jesus or His authority.

It reminds me of the parable in Matthew 21 about the man who had two sons. The father asked the first son to go and work in the vineyard. He said no, but later changed his mind and went. The second son, when asked, said yes, but never went. Which of the two sons obeyed?

Those who really love Me are the ones who not only know My commands but also obey them. My Father will love such people, and I will love them. I will make Myself known to them." (Joh 14:21)

Beloved, the point is obedience.

We don't obey to seek a blessing anymore than He blesses to earn our obedience. The motivation for both our obedience and His blessings are the same: Love

However, the blessings He gives us do provide a means for us to obey Him. Whether it be by simply singing His praises or by using the blessings in tangible ways to glorify Him and advance the Kingdom.

As we freely receive, so we should freely give.

The leper's actions showed the true state of his heart toward Jesus. When we are given a blessing what is our response? Is the blessing a catalyst for us to obey the Giver?

There is a question posed by George MacDonald that convicts me every time, "ask yourself whether you have this day done one thing because He said, Do it, or once abstained because He said, Do not do it."

On days when I'm not mired in the mud of this world, I ask myself this question. Growth comes when I can ask myself this question even in the midst of the mud and the mire and find the answer to the affirmative.


Sunday, November 8, 2020

Inspired by . . . Headlines: The Valley of Vision

It's hard to beat the sweeping views of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana where the mountains stand tall and their foundations run deep. The thrill of standing at a dizzying height, looking out, for miles and miles, over God's creation. Experiencing the power, majesty, and grace of God in a profound and real way.

This is the mountain top experience we long for as Christians. Yet, I can't help but think of Peter's response when he saw Christ transfigured on the mountain. His practical and frankly, silly, suggestion that they build shelters for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Dizzy, indeed. Until God spoke and brought him into the reality of what he was experiencing, Peter and may I suggest, most of us, don't know how to deal with real mountain top experiences. Like Peter, we feel the need to act rather than sit quietly and just experience Jesus. Perhaps that is why they are so few and far between.

If you've been a Christian for very long at all you've probably learned that the Way is filled with paradox.

that to be low is high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive...*

that the valley is often the place of our clearest vision.

It is in the valley, surrounded by our sin and darkness, that Christ's light shines the brightest. That we behold His glory. It is here in the valley, through many dangers, toils, and snares, that the grace of God carries us.

Though in the valley we may feel the most bereft and alone, it is here where we are really the closest to our Father because it is in the darkest valley when He carries us close to His bosom, a single set of footprints in the sandy loam.

It is when we thirst that we seek the Living Water. When we are at our lowest that we look to the heights. When things are dark that we look for the Light.

Let me find Thy light in my darkness,
Thy life in my death,
Thy joy in my sorrow,
Thy grace in my sin,
Thy riches in my poverty
Thy glory in my valley.*

The Good News is that Jesus is the Light and He will always bring us safely to the Father. 


*Inspiration taken from The Valley of Vision, Puritan Prayers and Devotions, edited by Arthur Bennett